Category Archives: Energy News

Smart Meters – The Smart Choice

Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters and offer a range of intelligent ‘smart’ functions, much like your smartphone and smart TV.

They are being installed across Great Britain as a part of a national upgrade to our energy system.

Smart meters use a secure national communication network (called the DCC) to automatically and wirelessly send your actual energy usage to your supplier. This means households will no longer rely on estimated energy bills or have to provide their own regular readings.

Smart meters put people in control of their energy use by showing them how much energy they use in pounds and pence via an easy to understand In-Home Display.

With accurate information at their fingertips, consumers can easily understand how they can make small changes to the way they use energy in order to use less and save money on their bills. This information can help them choose a better tariff or switch supplier, increasing their savings even further.

Smart meters also communicate directly with your energy supplier meaning you will get accurate bills and only pay for what you use without the hassle of providing meter readings yourself or taking time out of your day to let the meter reader in.

Consumers with smart pre-payment meters will be able to top up directly online, through an app or at the local shop. No more keys or cards, making it much more convenient. The prepay in-home display will have an easy-to-understand screen that will show how much credit is left. So no more late-night dashes out to top up your energy balance.

Smart meters are the building blocks of a smarter energy system fit for the 21st century.

Over 11 million meters are already empowering consumers to reap the rewards of a smarter energy system – with 400,000 more meters benefitting homes and businesses every month. 8 out of 10 of those with a smart meter would recommend them to friends and family.

In the future, consumers will be able to choose for their new smart household gadgets and appliances to talk to their smart meter and help reduce their household bills. For example, your smart washing machine can automatically run at the cheapest time of the day, directed by information coming through your smart meter.

The government is committed to every home and small business being offered a smart meter by end 2020 – you can choose whether to have one or not. There are clear standards of conduct, overseen by energy regulator Ofgem, that require suppliers to treat consumers fairly and not mislead them when marketing the benefits of smart meters to their customers.

What are the benefits of smart meters?

  • smart meters put consumers in control of their energy use, so they can save money on their bills – those savings will be worth more than £1.2 billion a year by 2030
  • they provide easier, accurate billing and will help consumers choose the best deal for them
  • no more estimated billing – something we only seem to tolerate in utilities – no more having to crawl under the stairs or to take time out of your day to provide manual readings to your supplier
  • smart meters are set to be the cornerstone of the smart energy system of the future, potentially saving Great Britain up to £40 billion between now and 2050

What do energy consumers who already have smart meters think?

  • 82% of people with smart meters say they have a better idea of their energy costs
  • 8 out 10 people with smart meters say they would recommend them to friends or family
  • 90% of people with a smart meter say they are satisfied with the installation process
  • hundreds of thousands of energy consumers are choosing to have smart meters in their homes every month

Myths

Myth 1: Smart meters stop people from switching and lock them into one supplier

Fact: That is simply untrue. All consumers can switch whenever they want. In fact households with smart meters are more likely to switch than those who don’t have one, with 23% of people with smart meters switching in the last year, versus 17% without a smart meter.(1)

Myth 2: Smart meters don’t really help you save money

Fact: Not true. More than 80% of people with smart meters have taken steps to reduce their energy use and as a result, cut their bills.(2) It is estimated smart meters will take £300 million off consumer’s bills in 2020, rising to more than £1.2 billion per year by 2030 – an average annual saving of £47 per household.(3) 8 in 10 consumers with a smart meter would recommend one to family and friends.(4)

Myth 3: People are being forced to have smart meters installed

Fact: Not true. Those customers who want to benefit from having a smart meter can have one installed at no extra cost, but installing a smart meter is always the customer’s choice and people have the right to say no.

Myth 4: Suppliers are bullying consumers into having a smart meter installed

Fact: Ofgem has made it clear suppliers must treat customers fairly and their communications must be complete, accurate and not misleading. Ofgem will take up complaints with energy suppliers for customers who feel they are being bullied or coerced into getting a smart meter.

Myth 5: Smart meters can be hacked and are a safety hazard in the home

Fact: Smart meters are secure, with a security system developed by leading experts in industry and government including GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre.

Smart meter installations are also making British homes safer. In the past 18 months, over 430,000 safety issues were identified by smart meter installers, unrelated to the smart meter installation, as a result of free visual safety checks, helping to protect households across Great Britain.

Myth 6: Suppliers are installing ‘dumb’ meters that fail when you switch supplier

Fact: All smart meters offer the same smart functions to customers. Some first generation smart meters may lose some smart functionality if consumers switch but 93% of those installed remain unaffected. This issue is only temporary however and all smart meters will retain their full capabilities when they are enrolled into the national wireless smart meter network. This upgrade will begin by the end of 2018 and will happen automatically without the consumer needing to do anything.

Myth 7: Consumers with poor mobile signal can’t get a smart meter

Fact: By the end of the year more than 95% of households will have signal, rising to 99.25% by the end of 2020 – meaning that almost every household who wants one will be able to have a smart meter.

Myth 8: Suppliers aren’t making enough progress on the rollout of smart meters

Fact: Over 400,000 smart meters are being installed every month and 11 million are already operating across Great Britain. Ofgem holds suppliers to account to ensure they are meeting their obligations to roll out smart meters and can fine energy companies for missing targets.

Myth 9: Smart meters can turn off your fridge without you knowing

Fact: No they can’t. It will always be up to consumers to decide when to use their appliances. In the future smart meters will allow consumers to be rewarded when they use appliances at times when energy is cheaper.

Myth 10: Smart meters mean suppliers can charge higher prices without you knowing

Fact: Energy suppliers can only charge prices customers have agreed to – and that won’t change. Customers with smart meters can access tariffs that allow them to get cheaper prices at times when demand is low – but it will always be the customer’s choice.

Smart Meters Only Save UK Households £11 A Year

MPs have warned that homes fitted with smart meters are only expected to save consumers £11 a year on their energy bills, considerably less than originally anticipated.

Releasing a report into smart meters, a group of cross-party MPs in the British Infrastructure Group of Parliamentarians said the government was likely to miss its own deadline on rolling out the technology to homes.

Conservative MP Grant Shapps, the chairman of the British Infrastructure Group (BIG), said the programme had been “plagued by repeated delays and cost increases, with suppliers now almost certain to miss the 2020 deadline, and programme benefits likely to be slashed even further”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Shapps said one of the reasons for the “mess” was that “first generation” smart meters, which do not always work when a customer switches supplier, will continue to be rolled out until next year.

Smart Energy GB, which is promoting the roll out of the smart meters, said: “All smart meters mean an end to estimated billing and give people a greater understanding of their energy use.

EU Directive Sees Phase-out Of Halogen Lamps

Time’s nearly up for halogen lighting – with all but a few types of the gas-based bulb scheduled for phase-out on 1 September this year.

The phase-out was due to be complete in 2016, but after halogen non-directional (pear-shape) bulbs were given a short reprieve, their time on the shelves is now limited.

A few will remain, namely those used for spotlights and floodlights, but in general, now is the time to start considering other options. Consumer advice website ToptenUK.org reckons your main consideration should be LEDs.

Savings to lighten your bills

Not only is LED technology better than ever and available in every household fitting where a halogen would be used, the savings from a shift to LED stand to be significant.

To use an example, if you’re replacing a 100 Watt traditional bulb, a 14W LED would do the trick at a cost of around £2a year. In contrast, a 77W halogen would cost around £11 and a CFL £3. While a CFL may seem comparably cheap, they only have just around half of the life expectancy of an LED.

Sticking to the subject of longevity, a halogen light bulb is likely to last for 2000 hours of use, while an LED should sort you out for as many as 25,000. No contest.

Which bulbs are not being phased out?

halogen lights G4, G9 and R7s with descriptions

Which bulbs are being phased out?

Halogen GLS lightbulb

The Halogen GLS lightbulb will be phased out.

Making the move to LED

With the halogen phase-out a few months away, ToptenUK.org is offering a useful buyers’ guide.

Among the advice is one very basic tip: don’t panic. Replacing all your halogens with LEDs at once may well end up being a significant financial outlay, so it’s worth doing it in stages and gradually seeing those long-term benefits.

Then, getting the colour right with your new lighting is key. Though the idea that LEDs starkly light rooms is well and truly a myth these days, it’s important to know the different between cool white – listed as 4000K on packaging – and warm white – listed as 2700K – before embarking on bulb-buying.

Designing the right ambience

If you’re looking for specific LED lighting effects around your home, it’s worth checking out our series with designer Graham Festenstein. He discusses creating a variety of moods for different rooms, using a range of bulb types and fittings, as well as dimmers.

While there are now a lot of dimmable LEDs out there, it’s important not to use them without checking the compatibility. If you’re not sure, ask your retailer or electrician before buying.

Cost v quality

LED lighting has dramatically fallen in price over the last few years – but the best advice is not to simply go for the cheapest. In a lot of cases, you’re likely to get for what you’ve paid for. It’s reasonable to expect cheaper bulbs to be less robust in the long run.

If you’re keen to invest in the very latest lighting technology, ‘smart bulbs’ offer the maximum functionality, including control from your smart phone. Naturally, though, this comes at a cost – both in terms of up-front bulb prices and running costs. At the moment, you can file this technological addition under ‘nice to have’ but non-essential.

If you want to get a good balance between affordability and great ambience as we say goodbye to halogens, good quality LED bulbs and fittings are the way to go.

Story and images via Energy Saving Trust

Smart Energy Start-up Upside Energy Secures £5.5 Million Investment

In its first major round of venture capital financing, Manchester-based Upside Energy attracted £5.5 million in order to grow its team and speed up the commercialisation and deployment of its cloud-based smart-grid platform.

Legal & General Capital, the principal investment arm of Legal & General Group, and SYSTEMIQ, an investment and advisory firm, co-led the investment.

Also providing capital are Modern Energy, Bulldog Innovation Group plus individual investors.

Solution to ease peak-time pressures

Upside Energy has developed a technology that connects and benefits both suppliers and users, while reducing carbon emissions.

While the market for renewable power such as wind and solar is growing, these come from multiple sources and are intermittent. This makes it harder for power stations to generate electricity consistently.

Upside Energy’s platform aggregates the energy stored in everyday connected devices, such as batteries and hot water tanks, to create a virtual energy store that can be drawn on as needed.

For National Grid – Upside Energy’s first customer – this means it can better balance electricity supply and demand from renewable sources.

Customers can also save on their energy costs or earn revenue if they avoid using electricity during peak times.

Funding and support

In addition to providing access to business connections and mentoring, Innovate UK has supported Upside Energy in multiple collaborative research and development projects.

This includes a total grant of £470,000 to develop a pilot for its core service and communication protocol, with partners Sharp Laboratories of Europe, Select Innovations (enLight), Tempus Energy and the University of Manchester.

It was also awarded an SBRI ‘first of a kind’ deployment contract for £43,000 to install home energy storage systems into 400 homes with an existing PV system.

Find out about how we support the energy sector.



Ongoing work

Upside Energy is currently involved in an Innovate UK-funded project.

It is part of a £2.9 million consortium to develop a physical and digital network to integrate systems that will enable the balancing of heating, cooling, electricity, and carbon, via a low-cost approach.

Other collaborators include Cranfield University, London South Bank University, Mixergy, Origen Power and Terra Firma Ground Investigation. ICAX is the lead.

Upside Energy founder Graham Oakes

Upside Energy founder Graham Oakes

Landmark Electricity Link Project For English Channel

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has issued a comprehensive decision for the IFA2 (Interconnexion France-Angleterre) project under the TEN-E Regulations, after it attained all of the required statutory consents in UK consenting regime.

The IFA2 interconnector is a 1,000mw high voltage direct current (HVDC) link, which will run from Normandy in France to Hampshire in England. The project is being carried out by National Grid IFA2 Ltd and RTE.

IFA2 map

MMO Senior Marine Licensing Manager Matthew Kinmond said:

This is the first comprehensive decision from the MMO under the TEN-E Regulations and the first in the UK for a cross-border and multiple consenting regime interconnector project. It represents a major milestone for the IFA2 project.

Dave Luetchford Head of IFA2 from National Grid said:

Enhancing Great Britain’s energy connection to France will bring a number of benefits, including increasing security of electricity supplies for both countries and providing opportunities for shared use of renewable energy.

Find out more about the IFA2 project

Find out more about TEN-E Regulations